Folkways Nowadays turns 10 YEARS OLD TODAY!
Back on July 22, 2011 when I hit “publish” for the first time, I never dreamed that this blog would quite literally change my life in ways I never expected. Here are just a few:
- Because I started writing regularly, I was able to publish a dang book, They Call Me Orange Juice!
- I got to go with that book to the biggest book event of the year, The Book Expo in, say it with me, New York City. (Read about that here and a little bit here.)
- All sorts of organizations have asked me to do numerous speaking engagements all over the place.
- Several different outlets have published my work including Mobile Bay Magazine, It’s a Southern Thing, The Bitter Southerner’s Folklore Project, and The Washington Post.
- And for the last year and a half I’ve been a teaching artist specializing in creative nonfiction through UAB’s Alys Stephens Center’s ArtPlay.
But even more important than all that are the connections I’ve made with YOU, my readers, and the friends I’ve made with people I might never have even met. Here are just a few examples:
- For most of the last ten years I’ve been a part of a wonderfully supportive writing group for women called See Jane Write and gained a great friend not only in its founder, Javacia Harris Bowser, but in many of my fellow “Janes” I’ve met through that group.
- People have told me stories of how my writing has touched their lives in so many wonderful ways I can’t even think of them all! One instance that stands out is a nice lady who said she would read my essays to her elderly mother who has short-term memory loss. Even though she reads the same stories over and over, they laugh together every single time just like it was the first time. She told me how much she cherishes these moments with her mother and how she knows it won’t last forever.
- Then there’s the nice gentleman in Brooklyn who noticed I hadn’t posted for a while during the pandemic. He actually called me on the phone just to make sure I was alright. It’s means a lot to be missed.
I could never have imagined all these wonderful things when I first put pen to paper — or finger to keyboard, as the case may be. Back then I was “freelancing as a marketing professional.” At least that’s what I told people. I was basically unemployed.
I kept myself busy with “old timey” hobbies that I love like canning and crocheting. I planted old timey plants like scuppernongs and persimmons and daylilies. I went fishing with an old timey cane pole. And with time on my hands and the space to think, all these stories started coming into my mind about Citronelle, Alabama, my hometown, the interesting characters there, my relatives, how unique my small-town upbringing seemed to be, and how many of the old timey traditions and folkways I grew up with seemed to be fading away.
“Folkways” are defined as “the ways of living, thinking, and acting in a human group, built up without conscious design but serving as compelling guides of conduct.” That’s what so much of the South is all about — rules that are followed, things that are done, ideas that are thunk and no one knows why. But that doesn’t always mean they’re not still relevant or bad or outdated, and if they are, it doesn’t mean they can’t be modernized, that they can’t change.
That’s why I called this blog Folkways Nowadays.
My goal was to have a little fun, bring a little nostalgia, wax a little poetic. If you know me in real life, you know I like to joke around and make people laugh (this one always gets a good guffaw), but I also love a good cry (here’s the story I will never be able to read out loud…ever…without sobbing my face off). Mainly, I just like to tell stories like my folks did and their folks did and their folks did…
But I also wanted to tell the stories of a South that acknowledges its faults but is working to evolve. I wanted to highlight Southern traditions that are authentic and valuable. I wanted to show the world that somewhere between the camo-wearing Robertsons of Duck Dynasty and the bluebloods in green jackets at Augusta National Golf Club there existed a class of people who don’t live out the stereotypes — people who were smart and hardworking and kind and did the best the could with what they had. And when the stereotypes inevitably cropped up as truisms, I wanted to call them out in a way that educated and enlightened instead of castigating and shaming.
I wanted to lead the South — my South — into a new century of relevance, acceptance, and maybe even a little respect.
I barely even knew what a “weblog” was and I could barely do more than type sentences into this online thing I found, this “content management system” called WordPress, when I hit “publish” on my very first post. It was about figs.
Since then, I’ve written 317 posts (this makes 318) that I’ve put out into the world, and probably half that many that didn’t make the cut. I’ve touched on everything from recipes to Southern sayings to racism (here and here are just a couple of those essays) to feminism (like I did here and here) to family lore (that sometimes got divided into a Part 1 and a Part 2).
I’ve written so many stories that I often run across posts I forgot I ever wrote!
Looking back over some of the essays from those early days, I can see where my own thinking has changed over the years. I’m not as staunch about some things (it really doesn’t matter what color shoes you wear or when you wear them). Sometimes I’ve gotten preachy-er than I wanted to be. Sometimes I’ve stayed silent when I should have spoken up. And every single time I hit “publish” on a post I thought might get me run out of town on a rail, all y’all have joined in with a resounding chorus of “hell yes!” and “you said just what I was thinking!”
As this blog has grown over the last ten years, so have I. And you’ve been right there with me every step of the way. I am grateful beyond belief and blessed beyond measure that you have gone on this journey with me.
So here’s to writing, here’s to reading, and here’s to TEN MORE YEARS of Folkways Nowadays!